I have decided to enter the murky and dangerous waters of childraising punditry. I do so with many caveats and disclaimers. There is so much room for diversity and flexibility, which I rejoice in. I love seeing my own children maintaining what they consider the best parental practices of their own young years, but adapting and innovating right alongside that.
What qualifications do I bring to this discussion? I am the mother of five children and grandmother of thirteen. My children are all adults, all love and serve the Lord wholeheartedly, and are bringing up their children to do the same. So, obviously certain parental decisions and commitments worked well for us. Others did not. Did I, the mom, feel on top on my parenting while my children were young? I suppose it depends what part of parenting was under discussion, and what day you asked me. With each successive child, I remember going to God and saying: “You have given me another child to ruin. Help”…So…I was tired, discouraged, and teetering on the brink at times – just as you are. But God was so faithful, working through my oh-so-inadequate performance. Still, we did think a lot about what we did as we brought up our children, Now I have the retrospective wisdom of many years. So let me tell you which of our practices worked the best.
One: I fasted and prayed for my family every Monday, over lunch. I still do. I quickly realized I was in way over my head in trying to “Christianize” – even civilize!- several children, and put that SOS before the Lord on a weekly basis.
Two: John and I were both converted as young adults and knew the utter ruination of sin. As much as I know our hearts, we truly wanted nothing more than for our children to become Christians. There were not competing goals.
Three: Again, as much as human hearts are capable of this, we wanted them to serve the Lord for His sake and for the sake of righteousness, not for the sale of our egos.
Four: We loved them, enjoyed them, and spent numberless hours listening to them.
Five: We took our “prophetic” role of forthtelling truth, interpreting reality to our children very seriously. They got real answers to real questions, always. And there was nothing they could not ask.
Six : We were pretty rigorous and consistent disciplinarians while they were young. The need for this diminished within a few years and they probably had more freedom in their teen years than many others.
Seven: We read much church history, many missionary stories to them – as much as we could find at suitable age levels. We supported and prayed for imprisoned believers in the Soviet Union regularly. We never hid the fact that they might have to suffer for their faith.
Eight: We had an absolutely open-door policy in our home – literally and figuratively.
Nine: When my children were convicted of their sin, I never tried to minimize it. If they said, “I feel like the worst person in the world”, I would respond, “You are. We all are. Now do you see why you need a Savior?”
Ten: I know this will be controversial, but, we always told them that if they grew up to reject Christian faith, if they became God rejecters, after all the privileges of their spiritual upbringing, they could not expect life as usual in our family. Exactly what this would have meant, I don’t know because they never put us to the test!
So there you have it, And as I read these over, I see that much of what I have written is not “How-to” but attitudinal and method of approach. Our hearts and their hearts! Most of all, God’s heart!